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I re-wrote this headline 9 times

Dan Ankle
By Dan Ankle: Ex. founder. Frontend developer. Perfecting the art of imperfection. Going solo #indiemaker.Follow me on Twitter

Published 16 Aug 2020

Yep, I have re-written this headline nine times. Not only that, but this 900-word article has also seen more revisions than the King James Bible.

Here are some headlines which didn’t make the cut:

  • Why now?
  • Why I’m becoming an indie maker
  • Why I’m becoming an indie maker without quitting my day job
  • Holy smokes, Batman. Baby incoming.
  • Why an inbound baby & the indie maker community has inspired me
  • Developer by day, wantrepreneur by night
  • Why I find getting started so difficult
  • Perfecting the art of imperfection

As you can see, “I re-wrote this headline” is a culmination of revisions essentially ending in me giving up.

The original purpose of this article, was to start my journey of launching a side project without quitting my day job, by writing about my motivations.

And as you can probably deduce from my headlines, it’s because I am becoming a dad. I have been quietly watching the indie maker community grow over the last few years, and it has helped inspire me.

I already work full-time as a frontend developer, but it does not provide enough income, especially as my partner is about to start maternity leave.

Thus, I have found myself with a sudden motivation, a motivation that feels different from before. It’s more powerful and less selfish.

It feels like an internal biological computer program has been switched on, with the sole purpose of giving me a big primordial kick up the ass; To do better and to be a great role model.

So why has this article been so challenging?

It hasn’t been easy because I can’t decide how I want to start my journey.

Lao Tzu, the enigmatic Chinese philosopher, writes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Well, this is my first step. And it’s a big one. I feel like it sets a precedent, a tone that affects every future decision and action I take. I don’t want to get it wrong, I don’t want to make a bad impression, and I want it to be perfect.

Thus, herein lies the problem. I can’t even publish my first article documenting my progress without overthinking every little detail. So, how am I ever going to ship anything?

Well, I think there are two concepts at play here.

Activation energy

Firstly, the idea of activation energy; Something that’s been explained many times before, recently by James Clear in Atomic Habits:

Activation Energy

Essentially, the energy required to get over the first few hurdles is much higher than future hurdles.

Setting up my Twitter, creating this blog, and writing about my progress are my first hurdles.

Fear of imperfection

Secondly, this image from @visualizevalue elegantly encapsulates the other reason I am struggling, and it’s about perfection:

I am a perfectionist when it comes to writing and web development. I will make something and sit on it until I don’t like it anymore. I’ll then change it and change it until I finally give up, never publicly showing my creation.

How I plan to circumnavigate these challenges?

I believe both challenges are closely related.

For me, building the necessary activation energy to get going has primarily come from reaching a point where the desire for change has eclipsed the desire for comfort.

Overcoming perfectionism won’t happen overnight. For me, it’s rooted in worrying about being judged and comparing myself to others.

However, I think being okay will imperfection will be like a muscle. The more I flex it, the stronger it becomes.

Below are some basic strategies on how I plan to embrace my flaws:

  • Focus on the process, not the outcome
  • Fear will reduce relative to action. Just act.
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Practice self-compassion
  • Be true to yourself, rather than trying to please everyone.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Embrace your flaws
  • Understand judgment is unavoidable
  • Realize everyone else is more worried & occupied about themselves than what you are doing

Other important challenges

As I am sure you are aware, building a side project with a full-time job and a newborn baby will be extremely challenging on a personal level for a few reasons:

  • Finding spare time
  • Staying disciplined with an ever-changing environment
  • Having enough energy to perform well in my job and outside of it
  • Keeping my mind from wandering, getting bored, or quitting

It will also be challenging for external reasons because:

  • Building something people want is hard
  • Building an audience is hard

So it’s crucial I stay consistent and focused, which is why I am sharing my journey along the way, through writing and tweeting about my progress.

I feel this is an integral part of the process to:

  1. Develop a regular writing habit
  2. Provide accountability and momentum
  3. Build an audience

Next Steps

If you read this article, you can see I have finally pulled the trigger by setting it from draft to published.

Now the ball is rolling, my next steps are to define a problem that needs solving. A problem that, if solved well, will generate an income from paying customers.

*Sips coffee*

*Takes a deep breath*

Let’s go!

P.s. If you are interested in following my progress, I have just set up a new Twitter account. I’ll be tweeting my progress through the lens of a designer & developer.